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Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein

The Hill logo The Hill 5/26/2020 Jordain Carney
a person wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein © Greg Nash Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein

The Justice Department is closing investigations into the recent stock sales involving Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that were made earlier this year in the lead-up to, or the start of, the coronavirus pandemic.

Loeffler's office and an aide for Feinstein confirmed on Tuesday that they had been notified that the investigations into the stock sales were ending.

A spokesperson for Inhofe didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the outreach, but sources briefed on the investigation told both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal that it had also contacted Inhofe's attorneys to notify them that it was ending its investigation into his stock sales.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The three senators were part of a group of several lawmakers whose stock transactions, or sales made by a spouse, caught national headlines earlier this year as the coronavirus spread throughout the United States.

A spokesman for Feinstein told The Hill earlier this month that the 86-year-old senator had spoken and handed over documents to the FBI in April but had not had any outreach from them since then.

Feinstein's husband sold shares of Allogene Therapeutics, a California biotechnology company, on Jan. 31 and at least $1 million in Allogene stock on Feb. 18, according to Senate records.

"Senator Feinstein was asked some basic questions by law enforcement about her husband's stock transactions. ... She was happy to voluntarily answer those questions to set the record straight and provided additional documents to show she had no involvement in her husband's transactions," a spokesman said at the time.

Inhofe, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, also sold at least $180,000 in stocks on Jan. 27, days after a Senate's coronavirus briefing, according to Senate records. Inhofe also sold at least $50,000 in stock in an asset management company on Feb. 20, four days before the stock market crashed.

Both Inhofe and Feinstein have said they did not attend the Jan. 24 coronavirus briefing.

Inhofe noted when the sales initially surfaced in March that he does not "have any involvement in my investment decisions" and instructed his financial adviser in December 2018 to begin selling all of his stock holdings two months after he was elected chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate and sworn in in January, has been under fierce scrutiny for nearly $20 million in stock transactions in late February and early March.

A spokesperson said earlier this month that Loeffler had forwarded "documents and information" to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Senate Ethics Committee.

Loeffler has said the transactions were made by a third-party adviser and she didn't learn about them until after the fact. She has since liquidated her individual stocks and converted her assets into broader mutual funds and exchange traded funds.

But she's come under criticism from her political opponents over the sales as she tries to win the final two years of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson's (R-Ga.) term.

"Today's clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along-she did nothing wrong. This was a politically-motivated attack shamelessly promoted by the fake news media and her political opponents. Senator Loeffler will continue to focus her full attention on delivering results for Georgians," Loeffler campaign spokesperson Stephen Lawson said in a statement.

The formal end of the investigations related to the three senators comes amid an ongoing investigation into stock sales made by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

Burr stepped down earlier this month as chairman of the Intelligence Committee pending the outcome of the FBI's investigation.

The Department of Justice has been conducting an investigation since March into Burr's sale of up to $1.72 million in stocks earlier this year. The stocks were sold in early February after senators received closed-door briefings on the national threat posed by the coronavirus but before most Americans were warned about the potential economic fallout of the pandemic.

Federal investigators seized Burr's cellphone earlier this month as part of an investigation into alleged insider trading. Burr has denied using any information he learned in his capacity as a senator to guide his decisions regarding selling his stocks.

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